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Theological Research and ATLA Digital Scholars

July 23, 2014

ATLA partnered with the IIT Institute of Design to obtain fresh insights and perspectives on scholars in order to inspire innovative thinking for new products and services.


For this project, student researchers worked alongside an Institute of Design professor to conduct human-centered research with the American Theological Library Association (ATLA). Through ethnographic studies the students were able to understand digital scholars and their perspectives, workflow, motivations, and goals. The final deliverable included a set of design principles ATLA could utilize in the creation of updated product offerings.


In recent years, advancements in technology such as mobile devices and cloud computing have made significant changes to the environment surrounding digital scholars. By conducting human-centered research, the team was able to obtain fresh insights and perspectives into scholars’ work. This information was  synthesized using design methods to create a roadmap for the development of new services.



Although the ATLA maintains a good relationship with librarians, they have limited access and understanding of the scholars who use their products.

Proposed User Experience

After conducting the human-centered research in the summer of 2014, the team launched an Analysis and Synthesis Room, a working space intended to inspire and facilitate innovative thinking for new products and services. The research team held a user-empathy workshop to help ATLA learn how to use the features of the Analysis and Synthesis Room and thus best understand their users.

In 2015, several members of the research team presented at the annual conference of the American Theological Library Association in Denver, Colorado, and shared the research process and key insights with ATLA’s individual, institutional, and affiliate members.



Sipra Bihani
Thomas Brandenburg